USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service should continue to rely on and expand the use of private-sector technical service providers to help pork producers implement conservation measures, according to testimony today by the National Pork Producers Council before a Senate Agriculture subcommittee.

“The more NRCS embraces the use of technical service providers, the more the country will benefit from NRCS’s particularly sound approach to natural resource conservation,” NPPC board member Doug Wolfe, a pork producer from Lancaster, Wis., told the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Subcommittee on Forestry, Conservation and Rural Revitalization.

Although NPPC remains a supporter of NRCS’s successful and important conservation technical assistance delivery system, the demands on the service’s staff are too great to allow them to be uniformly available and effective in providing certain kinds of relatively specialized planning and assistance, says Wolfe.

“Producers need help with certain environmental practices, and NRCS staff is either not trained to do this work or does not have the time to get to it,” he told the subcommittee.

NPPC is conducting a detailed review of the effectiveness of the NRCS technical assistance programs and the use of technical service providers. Among the preliminary observations NPPC shared with the panel were:

  • Far more producers would use TSPs if NRCS contracted with the TSPs rather than have producers contract with them directly.
  • Producers often are confused by what NRCS’s “not-to-exceed” payment rates for various services provided by TSPs mean and how they are to be used. Many producers believe they are the prevailing market rates. NRCS needs to clarify this.
  • NRCS should continue to use its two methods for contracting TSPs: issuing requests for proposals or requests for qualifications from TSPs to conduct specific TSP work and allowing producers to select their own TSP from a list of certified TSPs.

NPPC news release